My stepfather’s advice: don’t declare

Alexei Sorokin
3 min readDec 2, 2023

I respect my stepfather for how his humility and firm character come together. He holds certain opinions but is never patronizing. Overall, he’s a quiet man. The other day, however, he allowed himself a rare piece of advice. It was directed specifically at me.

My family moved a lot in recent years, and some of our relocations were very questionable decisions. What added to the pain was that the moves were expensive and complex because of the large size of my family and the coast-to-coast nature of our travels.

We moved in June of this year, and then things changed again. I couldn’t imagine they would, but they did. I’ll spare the details — they are not the point of this story. A month from now, we’ll be on the road again. Even writing this is hurting me mentally already.

“This time, we will settle for good. Well, for many years,” I told my Mom and my Stepfather, who came to live with us after Russia started the war in Ukraine. Even before their final one-way arrival in the US in February of 2022, they had seen us move many times and helped us during their previous visits.

I meant what I said. Maybe I sounded apologetic, trying to comfort them ahead of another major life change. But I truly see a path toward stability, at least in terms of where to live in the coming years.

My claim was met with outright skepticism. I tried to defend and elaborate, but given the history, I sounded unconvincing even to myself.

Seeing me lose the debate — not that there was much of a debate — my stepfather softened and said, “Just don’t declare. In general, don’t declare. Don’t declare your goals; don’t declare what you will do”.

He was so right. I have enough scars from the past to know his advice is good. For example, I announced a lot of things in my entrepreneurial endeavors. Then, I failed every time. It’s not that I am embarrassed to have spoken and failed. But my declarations were just silly, period. There was zero value in allowing my big mouth to announce goals and commitments.

I can think of some situations when it’s okay to be outspoken about goals. Take athletes, for example — they aim to set records and often express their aspirations with a certain swagger. I guess politicians must declare — it’s the very essence of the jobs.

In most situations, however, there is no value in declaring.

Do, not say.

Actions over words.

I mentioned entrepreneurship, but there are other examples. Resolutions and goals are, in general, overrated. Excellence is achieved through quiet consistency, not rigid goals, and certainly not big announcements.

Words are very unnecessary. They can only do hard. This famous Depeche Mode song comes to mind, though its context is different. It’s a love song.

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Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day.